14th June 2012 | Author:

The effect of aspirin on cancer – a new wonderdrug?


New research has added weight to the theory that taking a daily dose of aspirin could help prevent cancer.

Prof Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University, has now led several studies which seem to suggest that aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is a wonderdrug.

Of course, so many things have been deemed wonderdrugs over the years, it’s become something of an unattainable medical utopia.

In the case of aspirin, though, the evidence is mounting.

Prof Rothwell’s latest study, published in medical journal The Lancet last week, found that patients taking around 75mg of aspirin a day for three to five years were 19% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer than counterparts who didn’t take the drug.

Previous studies led by Prof Rothwell at Oxford University found taking daily aspirin doses for more than five years reduced the risk of cancer diagnosis by 30% – and in some cases, aspirin was not only thought to prevent cancer, but stop it spreading, too.

In common use, aspirin is usually taken as an anti-inflammatory painkiller, used to control headaches and joint pain. It has also been used on patients susceptible to heart disease and stroke – and, as it thins blood platelet aggregation, is also prescribed for sufferers of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The latest studies, though, suggest it could play a role in fighting cancerous cells.

Prof Rothwell has been quick to suggest taking a daily dose of aspirin should be routine for adults – and his views are backed by leading researchers at universities in Milan and Wales.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Prof Gordon McVie from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, said: “This is clear cut. Aspirin is cheap and effective.”

Indeed, some detractors have claimed drug companies are behind the positive research – as they look to push pills on the public for profits. Anyone au fait with over-the-counter drugs, however, will know that aspirin is amongst the cheapest available, as it is relatively easy to produce.

Should I take aspirin every day?

Despite mounting evidence, some medical professionals remain sceptical – pointing out that aspirin can cause internal bleeding, haemophilia, bleeding disorders, allergic reactions and stomach ulcers, and warning that more research is needed before its usage as a prophylactic is universally agreed.

Similarly, aspirin is not suitable for use by people with liver, kidney or gastrointestinal problems, asthmatics, or those allergic to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

Self-medication with over-the-counter pharmaceuticals is not advised. If you genuinely wish to take a dose of aspirin every day, it is worth discussing the potential risks with your GP. They’ll be able to advise you on the best course of action – including whether there are aggravated risk factors due to existing conditions.